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Selfish vs. Self Centered: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Aimie Carlson || Published on December 2, 2023
Selfish refers to prioritizing one's own needs over others, while self-centered denotes an excessive preoccupation with oneself, often disregarding others.

Key Differences

Selfish behavior involves actively prioritizing one's own needs and desires above those of others. It often manifests in actions taken to benefit oneself, sometimes at the expense of others. Self-centered, on the other hand, is a broader character trait where a person's thoughts and concerns are primarily about themselves, often leading to a lack of interest or awareness of the needs and feelings of others.
People who are selfish make decisions and act in ways that serve their own interests. This can include ignoring the needs and wellbeing of others when it conflicts with their own goals. Self-centered individuals may not always act selfishly, but their world view is focused on themselves, making it hard for them to consider perspectives or needs outside their own.
The concept of selfishness can be seen in actions like hoarding resources or making choices that harm others for personal gain. Self-centeredness is more about a person's mindset, such as constantly talking about oneself, or always steering conversations back to their own experiences, often unintentionally.
Selfish actions are usually deliberate and calculated to achieve a specific benefit for oneself. In contrast, being self-centered can be an unconscious behavior, not necessarily intended to harm others but often resulting in a lack of empathy or understanding of others' perspectives.
A selfish person may occasionally show concern for others if it aligns with their own interests, while a self-centered individual may struggle to recognize when their focus on themselves is excluding or hurting others, as their perspective is deeply ingrained in their personality.

Comparison Chart


Gains for oneself
Personal perspective

Impact on Others

Often negative, as it involves taking from others
May be neutral or negative, as it involves ignoring others


Aware of others, chooses self
Often unaware of others


Deliberate for self-benefit
Not always deliberate, more of a trait


Can be situational
Typically a consistent personality trait

Selfish and Self Centered Definitions


Prioritizing one's own needs over others.
He was considered selfish for eating the last piece of cake without offering it to anyone else.

Self Centered

Preoccupied with oneself and one's own affairs.
His self-centered conversation always revolved around his own achievements.


Showing disregard for the well-being of others.
She selfishly spoke over her colleagues to get her point across.

Self Centered

Having an internal focus, often to the exclusion of external perspectives.
His self-centered worldview prevented him from understanding different cultures.


Acting to increase one's own welfare at the expense of others.
His selfish manipulation of the situation gained him an unfair advantage.

Self Centered

Exhibiting little consideration for others.
Her self-centered attitude made it difficult for her to empathize with her friends.


Being chiefly concerned with one's own personal profit or pleasure.
His selfish decision to go on vacation alone upset his family.

Self Centered

Thinking only of one's own needs and interests.
He was so self-centered that he never noticed his roommate's struggles.


Lacking consideration for others.
Her selfish refusal to share her notes left her classmates struggling.

Self Centered

Focused on one's own emotions, desires, and concerns.
She was so self-centered that she couldn't see the problems her friends were facing.


Concerned chiefly or excessively with oneself, and having little regard for others
A selfish child who wouldn't share toys.

Self Centered

Engrossed in oneself and one's own affairs; selfish.


Showing or arising from an excessive concern with oneself and a lack of concern for others
A selfish whim.

Self Centered

Egotistically obsessed with oneself.


The present quote doesn't illustrate the meaning very well.Holding one's own self-interest as the standard for decision making.

Self Centered

Concerned or relating to the self, and not necessarily the greater good of one's group, community, tribe, etc.; individualistic.


Having regard for oneself above others’ well-being.

Self Centered

Centered in itself, or in one's self.
There hangs the ball of earth and water mixt,Self-centered and unmoved.


(video game characters) Relying on their own actions and capabilities to be effective in the game, rather than on other characters.

Self Centered

Interested solely or primiarily in oneself, or one's own welfare; disinclined to consider the interests of others; selfish; egotistical.


Caring supremely or unduly for one's self; regarding one's own comfort, advantage, etc., in disregard, or at the expense, of those of others.
They judge of things according to their own private appetites and selfish passions.
In that throng of selfish hearts untrue.

Self Centered

Limited to or caring only about yourself and your own needs


Believing or teaching that the chief motives of human action are derived from love of self.
Hobbes and the selfish school of philosophers.


Concerned chiefly or only with yourself;
Selfish men were...trying to make capital for themselves out of the sacred cause of civil rights


Are selfish people aware of their behavior?

Selfish individuals are often aware of their behavior but prioritize their own needs.

Can self-centeredness lead to loneliness?

Yes, self-centeredness can lead to loneliness due to a lack of meaningful connections with others.

Is selfishness a learned behavior?

Selfishness can be both a learned behavior and a result of innate personality traits.

Can selfishness be positive?

In moderation, selfishness can be positive for self-care and setting boundaries.

Is being selfish always negative?

While often viewed negatively, selfishness can sometimes be necessary for self-preservation.

Is self-centeredness a form of narcissism?

Self-centeredness can be a trait of narcissism, but not all self-centered people are narcissists.

Can self-centeredness affect relationships?

Yes, self-centeredness can strain relationships due to a lack of attention to others' needs.

Can a self-centered person be generous?

Yes, a self-centered person can display generosity, but their focus remains primarily on themselves.

Are all selfish acts intentional?

Not all selfish acts are intentional; some may be unconscious reactions to certain situations.

Do self-centered people lack empathy?

Self-centered individuals may have difficulty showing empathy due to their internal focus.

Can self-centered people change?

Yes, with self-awareness and effort, self-centered people can learn to consider others more.

Does selfishness always harm others?

While often harmful, selfishness does not always negatively impact others and can sometimes be neutral.

Are selfish and self-centered synonymous?

While related, they are not synonymous; selfishness is an action, while self-centeredness is a trait.

Is selfish behavior influenced by culture?

Yes, cultural norms and values can influence perceptions and expressions of selfish behavior.

Is there a difference between being self-centered and egocentric?

Yes, while similar, egocentricity involves seeing everything in relation to oneself, which is more extreme than self-centeredness.

Are children naturally self-centered?

Children are often naturally self-centered, but they typically develop more awareness of others as they grow.

Can self-centered behavior be unconscious?

Yes, self-centered behavior can be an unconscious habit or personality trait.

Can selfishness be a survival mechanism?

In some situations, selfishness can be a survival mechanism, prioritizing personal safety and needs.

Is self-centeredness linked to immaturity?

Self-centeredness can be linked to emotional immaturity, but not exclusively.

Can therapy help reduce selfish behavior?

Therapy can be effective in addressing and reducing selfish behavior, especially if it stems from deeper issues.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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